Noreen Bush

Noreen Bush

Noreen Bush

Cedar Rapids

Noreen Bush completed her life journey of love and service to others on Oct. 23, 2022, at the Dennis & Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy in Hiawatha, Iowa. She was 51 years old.

While many may have known Noreen as a public leader, her strong foundation for all things meaningful was centered at home. As the mother to two adoring sons and wife to Russ, her devotion to family shaped her persona and always carried within her spirit.

Her celebratory approach to life involved food, fun, and many times a memorable family trip. She loved hosting friends and colleagues at her home where that great food and fun was always part of the loving mix.

Noreen was born in Detroit, Mich., the daughter of Norman and Donna (Eykyn) Colbeck. She grew up in Cedar Rapids for most of her youth, proudly graduating from Jefferson High School in 1989. Noreen was united in marriage to Russell Bush in 2000 at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Solon, Iowa. She was the youngest of seven children and daughter to her beloved mother who single-handedly and lovingly raised a large crew. This life experience growing up helped shape Noreen’s wonderful focus on hard work, care for all people, and support for working women.

Noreen obtained her bachelor’s degree in English education from the University of Northern Iowa, a master’s degree in educational leadership administration and superintendent’s certificate from Drake University. She was finishing her doctoral degree from Drake University. Before moving to Iowa and teaching at Iowa City High and College Community School District, she taught in Clayton, Mo. Noreen started her administrative career as assistant principal for Prairie High School. Next, Noreen went on to serve as the middle school principal in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and then returned to the College Community School District to serve as principal of Prairie Edge. She then joined the central office administration team for the College Community School District as director of secondary education.

After many years of experience as a teacher, principal, and deputy superintendent, Noreen was named the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s superintendent in 2019. As superintendent, Noreen led the second largest school district in the state with compassion for every learner and strength in making important decisions. She was respected for her leadership and hard work, along with her caring smile and laughter that flowed to all who walked the halls with her as she famously played her uplifting “song of the day.” Noreen had a glowing energy that permeated warmth to those throughout the school district.

In an educational career full of accolades and firsts, Noreen was the first female to serve as superintendent within the school district’s long history. Noreen was nationally-named 2021 Woman

 Superintendent of the Year by AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Within the state, she was named 2021-22 Iowa Superintendent of the Year by the School Administrators of Iowa. Additionally, she was presented the Outstanding Community Leadership Award at the 2022 HER series.

Noreen’s time as superintendent encompassed crises of historic proportions. During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the derecho natural disaster where 21 of 31 school buildings were significantly damaged, Noreen demonstrated her strategic approaches and professional gentleness to all matters that swirled within the parameters of those difficult times. This, all while she was experiencing her own personal cancer battle. What emerged from that simultaneous combination of experiences has been an immense admiration and respect from all who were blessed to know her.

Noreen was a member of St. Ludmila Catholic Church, Rotary Club, Iowa Business and Education Alliance, United Way Board, Orchestra Iowa Board, Drake University Education Advisory Board, University of Iowa Education Advisory Board, Urban Education Network Chair, AASA (National Superintendent Association), and SAI (School Administrators of Iowa).

Noreen is survived by her husband, Russ Bush; two sons, Thomas “Tom” and Augustus “Gus” Bush, all of Cedar Rapids; her mother, Donna Colbeck of Cedar Rapids; sisters, Amy (C. Dennis) Gaffney of Lamont, Iowa, Peggy (Rocky) Colbeck-Rochford of Cedar Rapids, and Nancy (Douglas) Snaadt of Fort Madison, Iowa; brothers, Jonathan (Bobbie) Colbeck, Joel Colbeck and Todd Colbeck, all of Cedar Rapids; parents-in-law, Dennis and Peggy Bush of Riverside, Iowa; sister-in-law, Angie (Terry) Logan of Sedalia, Mo.; and many nieces and nephews.

Noreen was preceded in death by her father, Norman Colbeck; and grandparents, John and Virginia Colbeck and Cecil and Irene Eykyn.

Visitation will be held from 2:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, with a prayer service beginning at 4 p.m. at St. Ludmila Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids. Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, at the church. Private entombment: Linwood Cemetery Mausoleum, Cedar Rapids.

She will be deeply missed for her caring soul, delightful energy, and strong dedication to the Cedar Rapids Community School District. Noreen’s mantra was always centered around “hope,” and she would want all to embrace this same spirit.

Noreen’s wish was for every child to have an opportunity; in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Cedar Rapids Community Schools Foundation.

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